United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
HIGHTOWER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
this Court are Defendants' Motion to Stay Discovery,
filed October 31, 2019 (Dkt. No. 35), and Plaintiff's
Response, filed November 10, 2019 (Dkt. No. 36). On October
8, 2019, the District Court referred to the undersigned
Magistrate Judge all pending and future discovery motions and
other nondispositive motions for resolution, and all pending
and future dispositive motions for Report and Recommendation,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 72, and Rule 1 of Appendix C of the Local Rules of
the United States District Court for the Western District of
Texas (Dkt. No. 30).
Marianne Geraci asserts numerous civil rights claims against
Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including conspiracy,
malicious prosecution, and retaliation for exercising her
First Amendment right to freedom of speech. See
Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 28).
Plaintiff alleges that she has received “four (4)
traffic tickets, three (3) unwarranted traffic stops, [and]
years of unwarranted surveillance.” Dkt. No. 36 at 2.
She seeks compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive and
declaratory relief, and attorney's fees.
October 22, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a
claim on which relief can be granted, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), respectively (Dkt. No.
31). Defendants now ask the Court to stay discovery pursuant
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c) until certain threshold issues are
decided. Plaintiff opposes both Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss and Motion to Stay.
Legal Standards and Analysis
trial court has broad discretion and inherent power to stay
discovery until preliminary questions that may dispose of the
case are determined.” Petrus v. Bowen, 833
F.2d 581, 583 (5th Cir. 1987). Rule 26(c) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure allows the court to issue a
protective order on a showing of good cause “to protect
a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression,
or undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1).
Rule 26(c)'s “good cause” requirement
indicates that the party seeking a protective order has the
burden “to show the necessity of its issuance, which
contemplates a particular and specific demonstration of fact
as distinguished from stereotyped and conclusory
statements.” In re Terra Int'l, Inc., 134
F.3d 302, 306 (5th Cir. 1998) (quoting United States v.
Garrett, 571 F.2d 1323, 1326 n.3 (5th Cir. 1978)). To
determine whether a stay is appropriate, a court must balance
the harm produced by the delay in discovery against the
possibility that the motion will be granted and entirely
eliminate the need for such discovery. Bickford v. Boerne
Indep. Sch. Dist., 2016 WL 1430063, at *1 (W.D. Tex.
Apr. 8, 2016).
contend that Plaintiff's claims are barred by absolute,
qualified, and governmental immunity, and that discovery
should be stayed until the issue of immunity is decided. The
Supreme Court “has described immunity as a threshold
question, to be resolved as early in the proceedings as
possible.” Boyd v. Biggers, 31 F.3d 279, 284
(5th Cir. 1994) (per curiam) (citing Siegert v.
Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 231-33 (1991)). The Fifth Circuit
has stated that, “until resolution of the threshold
question of the application of an immunity defense, discovery
should not be allowed.” Nieto v. San Perlita Indep.
Sch. Dist, 894 F.2d 174, 177 (5th Cir. 1990) (quotation
omitted); see also Williamson v. U.S. Dep't of
Agric, 815 F.2d 368, 383 (5th Cir. 1987) (stating that
district court acted properly in staying discovery pending
resolution of issues of absolute, qualified, and sovereign
immunity); Carlisle v. Normand, 2018 WL 3474715, at
*4 (E.D. La. July 19, 2018) (granting motion to stay
discovery pending resolution of motions to dismiss concerning
defendant's sovereign, absolute, or qualified immunity).
undersigned finds that Defendants have established good cause
for a stay of discovery of limited duration by demonstrating
the existence of the threshold question whether
Plaintiffs' claims are barred by immunity. Accordingly,
the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to
Stay Discovery (Dkt. No. 35) until April 1,
2020, when the stay will automatically be lifted and
discovery will resume without further action by the Court if
the case remains pending.
Court emphasizes that no other deadlines in the Scheduling
Order entered by United States District Judge Lee Yeakel on
October 22, 2019 (Dkt. No. 33) are affected by this order,
particularly including the trial setting in June 2021, when
the parties must be prepared to proceed to trial.
Plaintiff is encouraged to join Defendants in consenting to
referral of this case to a United ...